How to keep your contact center team engaged during times of uncertainty and lower contact volume

Today, many in the Customer Service industry are operating in uncharted territories where established volume patterns and KPIs lack relevance in this new COVID-19 environment. While industries such as travel, financial and healthcare confront unprecedented volume spikes, closures of physical stores, warehouses and mandatory stay-at-home orders result in sharp declines to retail, transportation and luxury brands.

What makes this disruption more difficult to manage, is its temporary nature. While the timeframe for the current situation is unknown, most experts agree that there will be a substantial upturn when the danger of the virus subsides. Therefore, for most companies, it is not an option to drastically reduce their customer service staff as the cost of recruiting and training a new team outweighs the short-term cost savings. Moreover, companies want to be ready for the rebound when things normalize.

We believe this temporary forced slowdown is an opportunity for contact centers to improve quality, refine processes, transition to new technologies and prepare for the return of higher volumes in the coming months. We touched base with our clients, colleagues and industry partners to identify 10 areas where companies can focus and adapt:

  1. Training, Training, Training: We never seem to have enough time to thoroughly train our team or conduct refresher training for new product lines. Use this time to schedule this training and have your team ready for the post-crisis recovery and even go a step further and create specific certifications for team members.
  2. Customer Loyalty Outreach: Most businesses create tiers for their customers and can identify the top customers responsible for a large share of revenue. At times of uncertainty, it is essential to build a stronger relationship with such customers and earn their loyalty. If your team has extra bandwidth, schedule outbound calls to VIPs or top-tier customers. Ideally, combine this outreach with a special personalized offer. Now is the time to create customers for life; those customers will drive your comeback!
  3. Explore New Ways for Quality Interactions: Higher-touch customer communication channels such as video-driven product demonstrations or personal shopping engagements require longer AHT and potentially dedicated appointments, but they deliver a distinctly unique customer experience—especially for retail e-commerce programs.
  4. Improve NPS/CSAT Ratings and Process: A powerful way to improve NPS or CSAT ratings is to follow up with detractors. Reach out to customers with a negative service experience to rectify the situation and deliver an unexpectedly good customer experience. Team members then internalize the customer feedback and take responsibility for turning a poor experience into a good one, continuously learning from the feedback and improving future responses.
  5. Conduct QA Self-evaluations: Gain additional value through team member QA self-evaluations. Each team member completes 5 QA self-evaluations per week, across all channels worked, using a standard QA form to gain a better understanding of key components of quality and desired customer satisfaction. Augment these evaluations with coaching sessions with Service Leaders.
  6. Work on Process Improvement: When customers are waiting in the queue, time is limited for process improvement meetings with front-line team members. With lower volume, hold brainstorming sessions with your invaluable and insightful team members. Focus on the top 10 dispositions and discuss how to eliminate unnecessary customer contacts, which will be beneficial for the future. For example, discuss how to eliminate calls regarding warranty questions, return policies, product ingredients, etc. by providing customers with tailored self-help information. Further, equip team members with easy-to-access or AI-driven answers.
  7. CRM Upgrades: While your team may not be fully utilized, now is the time to evaluate the performance and suitability of your current CRM. Every company has unique challenges and needs the right information captured and reported. Innovative CRM providers like Zendesk and Salesforce offer cloud-based, omnichannel solutions designed to integrate with most other productivity tools. Transitioning a CRM is, in most cases, a major undertaking that can carry substantial risks if done during times of high workload.
  8. Implement new Contact Channels: Today’s customer service organizations need to communicate with customers through the channel of their choice. Omnichannel support is a fundamental transition necessary to stay in tune with your customers. Implementing new channels and adjusting your organization to incorporate the necessary skills takes time, training and a significant learning curve to get it right. If you are not omnichannel at this point, transition now!
  9. Social Media & Review Management: Despite overwhelming evidence that fast replies to reviews and social media posts has a meaningful impact on your business, often there is not enough bandwidth dedicated to respond quickly. Earning extra stars is often a result of having customers rethink their review by having the opportunity to provide missing information or appeasements. Make sure team members have a good handle on your social media and overdeliver on responsiveness.
  10. Invest in your Team: With team members facing challenges, uncertainty and fear, bring them together virtually and share helpful ways to deal with challenges. Hold townhall meetings more frequently and discuss current topics such as government assistance programs, childcare options, distance education, etc. And most important, make sure your leadership is scheduling one-on-ones with your team members to provide support and help.

Of course, now the challenge for most organizations is transitioning their operation into an environment where all team members can do their work safely and effectively from home. Please review our published blog post with tips and suggestion of how to set up and maintain an efficient at-home operation at:

We all hope that we can get this crisis behind us quickly. While initially the focus must be on establishing a secure business continuity plan, the focus will shift on to how to best position your team on handling the return of customer volume once the threat of the virus dissipates. Utilizing the additional time available for your team now effectively will lay the foundation for positioning your CX organization for success in the coming months.